Sandak case: Youths sue AG’s office over leaked video clip

Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 13:17 Honenu is representing those who are insisting on the investigation of the death of Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, who was tragically killed in a police car chase on Tevet 6 5781/ December 21, 2020, and defending the many who are being detained while demonstrating for change in police behavior. The car Ahuvia was in with four other boys overturned when the police car collided with it from behind. Please click here for a list of posts connected to the case.

Honenu filed a statement of claim with the Jerusalem Magistrates Court against the Attorney General’s office for slander and violating the privacy of the additional youths who were in the car at the time of the accident and injured. The statement of claim was filed by Honenu on behalf of two of the youths approximately one week after the decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to close the case against the policemen who were involved with the incident and after video clips from the confidential investigative material were leaked to the media.

The suit claims that as the case was being closed, confidential investigative material was leaked to Army Radio reporter Shahar Glick. The material slandered the two plaintiffs and the other two youths who were in the car with Ahuvia. In the video clip that the police leaked, a recording is heard of a source who reported to the police that he saw four masked figures getting out of a car and throwing rocks at a passing car. This is the report of the action that the police attributed to the youths and over which the police started the car chase that ended with Ahuvia’s death. The suit claims that leaking the video clip with the sound track was intended to create a public mood supportive of the Attorney General’s decision.

The plaintiffs claim that the message that the leak sent was completely distorted: “If the youths were suspected of throwing rocks, then they were fair game for a fatal chase and therefore ‘in the overall view’ there was justification for the Attorney General’s decision not to put all or any of the policemen on trial. The plaintiffs disagree with the message because even if there had been a suspicion that they were throwing rocks, there were no grounds to set off on a chase that ended with a car-ramming or an extremely dangerous pass that caused death. The suspicion that the youths were suspects was not supposed to tone down the manner in which the cause of death of a youth by policemen in a harrowing chase and a car-ramming or a dangerous pass by the policemen was examined.”

From the suit, one learns that the leaked video clips reached the media before the Attorney General’s office transferred the investigative material to the defense attorneys. Thus the Attorney General’s office had one-sided control of the investigative material, and a media and public advantage at the expense of the rights of the investigated youths, who could not leak information in return, because they did not have the investigative material. The investigative material is not for the authorities to conceal or leak at will, emphasized Honenu in the statement of claim. Also, it was claimed that one of the policemen had already told his story to journalist Kalman Liebskind. The youths claim that his intent was to clear his name and to present the shocking incident from his viewpoint as a policeman.

The policeman who spoke to Liebskind was illegally detained several weeks later as a move by the Police Investigation Unit to show what would happen to whoever leaked investigative material from the case. Currently, the Attorney General’s office, who on one hand detained the source of a leak that was not in their favor, is on the other hand leaking material. All of the branches of the Attorney General’s office are clearly using a double standard. In this case, there is no administrative procedure to prosecute suspects over the leak because the entire law enforcement system, from the policeman on the ground to the highest echelon, was involved with the investigation and in the decision not to put the policemen on trial. And the leak was timed not coincidentally with the date of the announcement of the Attorney General’s decision. Therefore there is no choice other than to examine the leak according to civil law.

It should be noted that at the time of the incident, all of the youths were minors, and therefore by law their identities must remain confidential. This point is particularly important in light of the content of the suit and its nature. Revealing personal details of the plaintiffs will only increase their injury. In light of that, the youths are suing for 200,000 NIS from the Attorney General’s office as compensation. This is the first case of its kind over a leak of investigative material and harm to suspects who were minors at the time.

Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing the youths in their civil suit: “The Attorney General’s office and the police treated the investigative material as if it were the private property of the policemen suspected in the case, and leaked the material in an orchestrated campaign whose aim was to validate the decision to close the case against the policemen. I do not recall a precedent in which the prosecution launched a media campaign to prove the innocence of suspects, and went so far as to do it by leaking investigative material, damaging the integrity of the proceedings, the rights of the youths, and the authority’s obligation to trustworthiness as the body responsible for safeguarding the investigative material.

“The Attorney General’s ruling that there was no car-ramming completely adopts the testimony of the policemen. This unjustified ruling by the Attorney General that it was reasonable for the policeman to pull out for a needless and fatal pass hits the underbelly of trust in the proceedings. Leaking investigative material in order to get media support is adding insult to injury, and over that the suit was filed.”

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